Government confirms end to free movement in Brexit migration plans

White paper expected later this year to set out details of plan to end free movement of people once the UK leaves the European Union

Photo: PA

By Nicholas Mairs

02 Oct 2018

Free movement from the EU will end and low-skilled migration will be slashed after Britain leaves the EU, Theresa May has declared.

Setting out the details at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham, the prime minister said it will give priority to high-skilled workers who want to live and work in the UK.

In a major change to the present set-up, immigrants coming to Britain from the EU will be treated exactly the same as those from the rest of the world.


Home secretary Sajid Javid will outline more details of the plan, which reflects recommendations made by the Migration Advisory Committee, when he addresses the Tory party conference in Birmingham later.

Speaking ahead of the announcement, May confirmed the new system would end “freedom of movement once and for all”.

It had been speculated that the government could agree to a preferential immigration system for EU nationals as part of the post-Brexit trade agreement current being negotiated, but May today insisted that “it will be a skills based system where it is workers’ skills that matter, not where they come from”.

She added: "It will be a system that looks across the globe and attracts the people with the skills we need. Crucially it will be fair to ordinary working people.

"For too long, people have felt they have been ignored on immigration and that politicians have not taken their concerns seriously enough. The new skills-based system will make sure low skilled immigration is brought down and set the UK on the path to reduce immigration to sustainable levels, as we promised.

A white paper on how the system will work is expected later in the autumn, while ministers will bring forward new immigration legislation next year.

Under the plans, those wanting to live and work in the UK in the long-term would need to meet a minimum earnings threshold so that they are not taking roles that British workers could fill.

Skilled workers who are able to move will be able to bring their family, but only if they are sponsored by their future employer.

The government has also committed to bringing in a “swift system” of e-gate visa checks for tourists and visitors visiting the UK for short stay business trips from all low risk countries.

It said the system would carry out all security and criminal records checks ahead of visitors’ arrival.

Labour swiftly dismissed the new immigration plans, saying they would be "meaningless" if the government continued with its "unworkable and arbitrary migration cap that has never once been met". The Conservatives has pledged unsuccessfully to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands since 2010, but this has never been achieved.

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